GTD recurring actions/projects and sequential actions

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Cosimo, Oct 1, 2018.

  1. Cosimo

    Cosimo Registered

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    Hi everyone,

    I'm relatively new to the GTD methodology and I'm fascinated by the psychology behind it (e.g. 2 minutes rule) as well as by the idea of doing actions in specific contexts.

    I haven't had particular issues trying to implement the methodology unti now, but I'm just struggling with two concepts:

    1) Sequential actions related to a specific project can't be added together to the action list -
    I'm aware that not all projects require sequential actions but sometimes I might want to get more than one action done for a specific project during that day, week or following week. What about if all the actions to move the project forward are sequential? Shall I go back to the project (probably dailiy) to add the next sequential action once a certain action is completed? or shall I add them all together during the weekly review?

    2) Recurring/ daily actions - by definition recurring and/or daily actions happen on a specific date, week, etc. What about if I have 5/6 recurring or daily actions. Should they all be on the calendar? I find quite useful to have only 1 or 2 actions on the calendar for a specific day so I'd like to avoid having 10 recurring tasks everyday. Any tips/ideas about how to manage these actions? In my case there are also recurring projects, any ideas about how to use reminder for these?

    Thank you in advance
     
  2. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    I'm slightly confused here. Are you saying that this is a rule, or that your software doesn't support it? I used to think that you were supposed to have one and only one action per project, but almost everyone seems to disagree with me. :) Last time I looked in the book, I think I concluded that I had interpreted an ambiguity in one way and everyone else had interpreted it another way....or something. I still prefer to have a minimum of actions, per project, in my action lists. If I want to sit down and plan out how things might go, typing lots of actions, I prefer to make that project support material.

    However, even if you only have one action at a time, it's not only fine, but I think expected, that you will add another action when that one's done. The weekly review isn't the only time you're allowed to add actions--it instead serves (among other purposes) as a time when you make sure that all of your projects have an action.

    It's also fine to keep on working on one project without writing down each action and, when you're done with that work session, add an action so that the project has an action the next time you look at your lists.

    If I had a bunch of recurring daily actions, I'd probably put them in a daily checklist instead of the calendar. I might or might not have one calendar or tickler entry reminding me to do that checklist.

    In general, I would prefer for actions that are done at a specific time to be in the calendar, and actions that are just a reminder or are time-independent to be ticklers, in my case in the Mac's Reminders app.

    However, for me that is crossed with the fact that I prefer that some actions give me an audible alarm, and some do not, and I hate having to set that per action. So I have my calendar set to give an audible alarm, and Reminders to just silently display on my phone screen, and I enter items based on which behavior I prefer.
     
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  3. Rose

    Rose Registered

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    I think this is supposed to be one next action per project, but if I can think of more than one action which needs to be done to complete the project I'm going to write it down - otherwise I have to remember this and, well, I use GTD so I don't need to remember things :)

    I think you're managing your lists manually which isn't a problem, but it might be good to look at software which once you complete the next action for your project automatically replaces it with the one after that. I use OmniFocus for this (and it has 3 project types, parallel, sequential, and single action), and that allows exactly this to happen without my intervention.
     
  4. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    I think the canonical answer is that you can always put future actions in project support. It’s a reasonable answer, but perhaps not so clear in implementation given the wide range of what constitutes project support.

    There are many projects for which all you need is the next action. When that one is done, you will know what needs to be done next. It’s always good to avoid over-planning, so this should be the default behavior. It may help here and elsewhere to write clear next actions. I sometimes use something like “Call Fred re shoes for big beach race on xx/yy” to keep the end in mind, especially if the project is bigger, as in “Prep for beach race.” If you are using digital lists, you should be able to include notes with both next actions and projects, which can also be used to store possible future actions.
     
  5. TesTeq

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    For each active Project you MUST always have at least one physical action defined to move the Project forward - it is called the Next Action and it mustn't depend on any other action. You can have more than one Next Action for each active Project if they are not dependent. Independency is the key.
    If your Project is to plant three trees and you have all the tools and trees, you can have three Next Actions:
    1. Plant a tree #1.
    2. Plant a tree #2.
    3. Plant a tree #3.
    @Gardener
     
  6. Cosimo

    Cosimo Registered

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    Thank you all for your replies.

    As @TesTeq mentioned, the methodology is clear on this:

    "It’s fine to have multiple next actions on any given project, as long as they are parallel and not sequential actions (e.g., “Buy stamps” and “Mail invitations” would not both be on Next Actions lists for the “Put on Party for David” project given that you need to buy the stamps before you can mail the invitations)" - Which means next actions don't have to be dependent/sequential in order to be both on the action list.

    What I find unproductive is to go back to the project list to get the next sequential action for a certain project for which I know I wanna do more than one action during that day or week. Let's say I have 4/5 sequential actions for that project I wanna work on, I always have to go back to the project list to get the next sequential/action once the previous one is completed.

    As @Rose stated, it might be a problem with the tool I'm using (Trello) but that's something that It'd happen even if I was paper based whereas the methodology clear says that during the week I should mainly manage actions rather than continuosly going back to the project list.

    So I think the problem for me is still in place, "How do you manage multiple sequential/dependent actions" in next action list?"

    @Gardener I liket your idea about having a checklist with long list of daily taks.





     
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  7. Gardener

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    Well, in OmniFocus, the software handles that situation--you could have a hundred actions on your project, but if you configure your view to show you only next actions, you'll only see the top action for each project. When you check that off, you'll see the next top action.

    While doesn't help you one bit if you can't use OmniFocus.

    I'm unclear on how your process of moving an action from your project list to...something else, works. Are you using a specific Trello implementation that's documented somewhere? This feels like it may be a practice that requires a tool-specific solution.
     
  8. Cosimo

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  9. Gardener

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    Thinking about this some more, I guess I've always assumed that when you work the last action for a project, you do indeed create or fetch another action for that project, in the moment, before you move on. (Or if you just keep working on that project for a few hours, you create/fetch a Next Action when you're done.)

    Now, sometimes I'm not in the mood to think about that in the moment, so I've been known to create a Next Action that is "Create Next Action for this project." I'd probably put that in a context of "Meta" or some such name.
     
  10. treelike

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    I very very very often find that sequential actions turn out not to be sequential after finishing (or even attempting) the first action. Still worth writing them down in project support though.
     
  11. TesTeq

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    In the ancient times of Palm organizers there was the "Cascading Next Actions" concept. You write several sequential actions with common context in one Next Action entry - for example:

    Write invitations > Put invitations in envelopes > Put stamps on envelopes > Put envelopes to a backpack > Put "Mail invitations" on @errands list

    After doing the first action you edit this Cascading Next Action entry to remove it from the cascade.
     
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  12. Cosimo

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    @TesTeq sounds really interesting. I guess this idea could be implemented by adding a checklist for sequential actions in a certain next action entry for a specific context. Am i correct?

    Thinking about the tool I use (Trello) I could create a next action entry and put all the next sequential actions in a checklist for that specific card. In that way, once one action is completed, I can get rid of that action and change the entry/card name with the next sequential action.
     
  13. TesTeq

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    Yes, I think so. The idea is from the ancient times when a simple electronic list with checkboxes in your pocket was a huge achievement. It was in the year ~2 BI (Before iPhone) - 13 years ago... :D
     
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  14. RS356

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    I don't necessarily see going back to your project plan during the day as a negative. In the course of any day, you'll find yourself operating between doing work as it shows up, doing predefined work (your next actions), and defining your work (capturing, clarifying, and organizing). As you gain trust in your system through regular review and engagement, you may find that you need to refer to your project plans less. Some projects will require you to review and update your plans frequently.
     
  15. RS356

    RS356 Registered

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    It's still perfectly relevant today - I've been known to do this for short-term outcomes that don't require complex planning. Even on paper, I'll track a project this way if all next actions are going to be in the same context.
     
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  16. mbusillo

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    @Cosimo - I have run into the same issue regarding sequential actions relating to a project. I’ve been experimenting with doing a mini mind sweep to capture all the potential actions relating to the project and entering those potential actions in the project’s notes field. I then put the project’s next action on the appropriate context list and once that action is complete I return to the project’s notes to extract the next action.

    I am using Things and while I use its tags feature sparingly, I find it helpful to tag next actions related to a project with a project name (i.e. “buy stamps” would get the tag “Throw Birthday Party”). When I mark an action as done, the tag reminds me to choose a next action from the inventory in the project’s notes.
     
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  17. Longstreet

    Longstreet Registered

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    In Nirvana, if you have the project setup as sequential, completion of the current action leads to the next sequential action to automatically appear on your unified next actions list.
     
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  18. Longstreet

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    One more thing...if you know you want/need to spend time on a project, block off time on your calendar just for work on that one project. This is perfectly within the realm of a good GTD practice.
     
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